I think Michael Jordan’s Hall of Fame Induction speech where he calls out everyone he thinks disrespected him is one of the greatest ever. I find Alec Balwdin’s “Always be closing” monologue in Glengarry Glen Ross incredibly inspirational. I loved when Kevin Durant said, “It’s my fault” after playing an amazing playoff game while his teammates let him down.
Strictly speaking, all of these are lies. Jordan’s high school coach didn’t disrespect him. He saw an undeveloped talent and made a reasonable decision with no malice. All the employees Baldwin yelled at were not losers who shouldn’t even think about drinking coffee until they can close a deal. Durant was not to blame for the loss.
Jordan chose to interpret everything as a sleight. He used it as a chip on his shoulder. Probably not a very psychologically healthy move in normal life. Baldwin’s speech is a terrible way to manage people in the workplace. Durant’s claim that he was to blame reveals a God complex that is a pretty dangerous outlook. Yet I love each of these instances.
Only once you know no one is out to get you can you benefit from pretending they are. Humans adopt beliefs and take actions based on story. We need narrative. Sometimes, especially if you’ve achieved some modicum of success, life simply does not present much conflict or direct opposition. Yet we are moved by stories of heroes and villains. This is when the truly great ones fabricate a narrative that powers them to achieve.
I sometimes joke with my wife that I want her to pretend to leave me for a few days so I can feel enough angst to write music. As a teen I wrote songs constantly, fueled by high emotions. A stable, secure marriage is a real challenge to musical creativity!
When life doesn’t provide them I tell myself stories of struggle. I create myths wherein villains and haters are obstructing my way or mocking my effort. I don’t actually make enemies with real people, but I weave a narrative that produces a chip on the shoulder. I enter into a game where no one really believes in me and metaphorical bullets fly from every side.
A belief that the universe is trying to destroy you is incredibly disempowering. But once you know it’s not true yet selectively choose to play as if it is you become unstoppable. You can’t be unstoppable if nothing is trying to stop you.
Put that coffee down.